A photographer's Rant: Sometimes you just want to get your voice heard!
What I can't stand in the modern advertising assignment world is how we photographers are essentially squeezed from both sides. We have to almost beg to get assignments, or offer up 20% to a rep, advertise in ridiculously expensive source books to be seen as 'hip', enter ridiculous competitions that the organizers extend deadlines on to maximize profit, yet that never lead to any real meaningful work. We have to run round with three or more ridiculously expensive snakeskin/zebra/armadillo bound 'folios' available at all times with our work printed on dried virgin's skin just to impress some acne-ridden twenty-something with the title of "creative director".
If he does commission us we have to fight unrealistic budgets, give away unrealistic rights, jump to someone else's timetable, work with pretentious a-holes on set and deliver work to unrealistic deadlines. Then we have to wait 90 days to get paid. Oh, and we have to be super grateful too.
The turnover can look good but the profit margin is the real story.and what cost to us of all that hassle and built in jerk-factor?
When I entered our illustrious industry it was partly because I enjoyed making images and partly because I enjoyed the idea of being my own boss. I found that increasingly with assignment work I lost the enjoyment of making images and I was never really my own boss. I found that client loyalty existed as long as the next estimate and if someone else was cheaper well.... you all know the ending.
With stock production I am, as much as can be expected, master of my own destiny. I can shoot when I want, take a day off when I want, and arrange my own productions so I can maximize profit. I treat stock as a pure business model and simply put, I shoot for money not pleasure. I have always said that if I could find another way of leveraging money from this industry I would do that too. This may still come. There's so much naive blood out there coupled with rich hobbyists that there's got to be money to be made. Good luck to the Chase Jarvis's & the Vincent LaForet's of this world, they've realized that for us all to survive we've got to do something alongside making images for a living. Lectures, apps, DVDs, seminars, courses, the list is endless.
While prices may be falling I'm a relative newbie in stock (3 years seriously and 5 years altogether) so I'm still working out what works and what doesn't. I wasn't shooting stock in the glory days so for me any sales are good sales (apart from PA of course...;)). The more I'm images I'm placing the more money I seem to make. So I'm continuing for now along the same trajectory while simultaneously reducing my expenditure as much as possible.
Success is a goal that each of us sets dependent on our expectations, our needs and wants and what we think is achievable. For me, being able to live by making images, or talking about making images and being master of my own destiny is a measure of success. I count myself lucky that I can pick up a camera and earn a living without having to be a corporate cube-farm slave like many of my friends. Sure they make more $$ than I do but...are they happy???!! ;)